Amaré Stoudemire’s surgeon is smiling today. The microfracture surgery he performed 14 months ago got rave, two-thumbs-up reviews during the Suns’ franchise-record 15th straight win, a 115-98 blowout of the Toronto Raptors Tuesday night at US Airways Center.
Stoudemire, showing there’s no better percentage shot than jamming the ball through the hoop with your elbow nearly up to the rim, bounded around the floor like he did before he started having knee problems.
In his first 14 minutes, he hit 8-of-9 shots for 18 points — many of them spectacular slams — and seven rebounds. He finished with 28 points and 10 boards in just 28 minutes.
Stoudemire’s performance gave the Suns two reasons to celebrate. The other:
The NBA’s longest winning streak in seven seasons. The Los Angeles Lakers won 19 in a row in the 2000-01 season.
Coach Mike D’Antoni said his players are “excited about the record. And they should be.”
The Suns need to win three more — at Denver tonight against the depleted Nuggets, then home games with Washington and Portland — to tie for the fourth-longest streak in NBA history (18).
The Suns also can tie a franchise record with nine straight road wins tonight.
More important in the long run, the Suns, at 18-6, are within one-half game of the San Antonio Spurs for the NBA’s best record.
As for Stoudemire, “His actions speak louder than words,” said Suns doctor Tom Carter, who conducted the operation on Stoudemire’s left knee.
“His play demonstrates he’s recovered fully.”
Stoudemire said he thinks this was his best game yet, especially on defense where he thinks he’s making progress.
Overall, “I’m always hard on myself. I don’t want to say I’m back. But I’m close.”
“Amaré was dominant,” D’Antoni said. “He’s getting to be a load again.”
Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said, “He’s just so much quicker than most big guys..It’s just so hard to run with him.”
Rasho Nesterovic, the Raptors’ center, said he thinks Stoudemire has forgotten about the surgery.
“I don’t see a difference in him now from how he was before,” Nesterovic said.
He should know. He saw Stoudemire up close for San Antonio in the '05 playoffs,
In comparing the two Suns teams who managed to win 14 straight, D’Antoni pointed out, “Guess which team plays better defense.”
It’s true. His Suns allowed 45 percent shooting by their opponents through 14 straight wins, while the 1992-93 Suns allowed 48 percent shooting.
Overall, the two streaks seem fairly comparable.
Scoring: 115.1 for the '92-93 team; 112.6 for this year’s Suns.
Points allowed: 102.8 for the '92-93 team; 101.8 for this year’s Suns.
Field goal percentage: 49 percent for the '92-93 team; 50 percent for the current team.
3-point percentage: 39 percent for the '92-93 team; 41 percent for the current team.
The '92-93 team, led by Charles Barkley, Kevin Johnson and Dan Majerle, got plenty more free throws: A whopping 33 per game compared to 23 for the current team.
Stoudemire, asked his opinion of the two teams, said, “We’d win, hands down.”
That comment called for equal time. Mark West, the center in '92-93, was asked who’d win between the two.
“Probably the team that went to the Finals,” West said, referring to his team’s dramatic run that matched them with Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls. He pointed out Barkley was the MVP that year, “And Kevin wasn’t too shabby, either.”
NO LAUNDRY BILL
Pro basketball isn’t a particularly superstitious sport. But that’s not stopping trainer Aaron Nelson from staying the course with his wardrobe.
Nelson borrowed a sport jacket from Steve Nash and wore it to a win over Milwaukee on Dec. 1.
The Suns won the game, center Sean Marks told Nelson he had to keep wearing it, so he has. He hasn’t dry cleaned it, either, through two road trips.
“I can’t take it off now, even though it’s getting pretty funky,” Nelson said.
NOW THERE’S A STREAK
The Suns are less than halfway to the greatest streak of all - the 33 straight wins by the Los Angeles Lakers in 1971-72.
D’Antoni thinks the string will be extremely hard to duplicate.
“It’s possible, but with the salary cap and parity among teams, it would be very, very difficult.”